Why IS remains a threat | DW Documentary

Why IS remains a threat | DW Documentary

Is the world facing a resurgence of the so-called Islamic State (IS)? In northern Syria, many former IS fighters are imprisoned in hard-to-secure prisons. Among their children, the next generation of jihadists is growing up.

A severe earthquake in February 2023 brought northern Syria back into the international spotlight. It’s a region that has long gone unnoticed, despite the fact that the so-called Islamic State (IS), a terrorist organization, had its stronghold here. Though it was defeated militarily, IS could regain strength from here. This would have international repercussions.

Filmmaker Kawa Akrawi visited northeastern Syria’s autonomous, democratically governed area in 2022. In this region inhabited predominantly by Kurds, the filmmaker experienced the difficulties faced by the local population up close.

Here in “Rojava,” as the region is known by the Kurds, the Kurdish militia YPG, backed by U.S. forces, fought against IS until 2019; thousands of fighters have been killed or wounded. Following victory over the IS caliphate, the region has been home to the world’s largest prison for IS fighters. The area also has the world’s largest camps for the jihadists’ women and children. Many of the wives are from western countries, which have refused to take them back.

In these immense camps and prisons, it is feared, the next generation of jihadists is now growing up. “We have defeated IS territorially, but its ideology and organization have not disappeared. They are still active,” says Newroz Ehmed, of the military alliance’s SDF General Command. Their security forces can guard the camps and prisons from the outside, but they cannot control them inside. It is an explosive situation.

The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that Turkish President Erdogan has been fighting the Kurds in northeastern Syria for years. He calls their militia, the YPG, a terrorist organization and repeatedly flies drone attacks on the “Rojava” region; tens of thousands of Kurds have lost their homes and now live in refugee camps.

Under these conditions, how can Kurdish leaders in northeastern Syria protect themselves, neighboring countries and the West from a return of IS? What are the plans for dealing with Islamist fighters and their children, who are being raised in camps to become fanatical and ruthless fighters?

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[Applause] a Battle Hymn a song glorifying Death and violence these are the children of Isis members they’re growing up in a refugee camp in rajava northeastern Syria this is a violent environment if you leave the children like here then you can say this will be the next

Generation of Isis Fighters Al Hol is the largest of the camps in the region and it’s considered the most dangerous in the world World El Hall will turn into a ticking Time Bomb for a further and future terrorist organization in 2019 Kurdish Le forces succeeded in taking back the

Region from Isis rule but the militant group remains a threat we put an end to Isis control of rojava but the organization and its ideology still exist here including in the prisons where Isis terrorists have been held since the end of the Fighting by the autonomous Kurdish government that controls Northeastern

Syria we have about 12,000 Isis prisoners rojava’s economy can’t cope with that on its own the Kurds who live here feel abandoned and they’re under threat from their neighbors for Turkish president RB t Eran they too are terrorists turkey has launched repeated offensives in Rajava I’m a Kurdish filmmaker based in Brussels together with gulan a Kurdish journalist I’m traveling to rajava in northeastern Syria after many attempts we’ve finally been given permission to visit some of the most dangerous places in the region we want to find out what the legacy of the fight against Isis means

For rajava and its people it’s October 2021 we’ve just crossed the border into Syria there’s no mistaking how dangerous the situation here still is a suicide bomber has blown up a truck loaded with explosives very close by shaan our driver urges us to move on as quickly as possible he fears a second

Attack shaan used to be in the Syrian Army during the Civil War he deserted and fled to the Kurdish regions there he joined the militia he’s our driver and bodyguard and he’s heavily armed are people here peaceful who knows they’re prover so long as it’s in control but they support

Isis if it came Back our first stop is the town of kamishi directly on the Syrian Turkish Border this is the home of the autonomous administration of Northern and Eastern Syria as rajava is officially called not long after the start of the Syrian Civil War the Kurds who lived in the oil Rich Northeast set up an autonomous region and declared self rule but it’s not officially recognized by

The government of Syria or indeed any state rava is a thorn in the side of Turkish president ER in particular ilham Ahmed co-president of its executive Council explains why since its foundation in 1923 the Turkish Republic has denied the very existence of us Kurds the government is afraid that

Recognizing Kurdish identity in Turkey could weaken Turks as an ethnic group divide the nation here in rojava the native language Kurdish is taught in many schools turkey does not accept that it’s why it’s fighting against us it fears that the Kurds in Turkey might then man the same edan’s main accusation is that

Rajava and its militias are allies of the pkk the Kurdistan Workers Party he classifies the militant Kurdish Group which is now based primarily in turkey as a terrorist organization as do the EU and the US the pkk was active in rojava for a long time in the 1980s the movement

Spread here the Kurds in Syria were oppressed at the time and had no rights but Syria’s Kurds now reject any association with the pkk today rojava is forging its own path the at omous Administration and the pkk are not the same the Kurds here in rajava have themselves long been threatened by

Terrorism and were instrumental in ending is Terror in the Region we’re on our way to meet NEOS Ahmed commander of the Kurdish dominated military iance the Syrian Democratic forces the SDF before we left we had to hand over our mobile phones it standed practice a precautionary measure since Turkish combat drones began targeting Kurdish commanders we put an end to is’s control

Of rojava but the organization and its ideology still exist here it’s still active it’s still carrying out Terror attacks not just against Armed Forces but also against civilians we want to visit the territory once claimed by ISIS before it was oued by Kurdish Fighters we travel to Rua the

Former unofficial capital of the Islamic State evidence of the destruct fight against the jihadists is Everywhere raka became the purest example of this caliphate ideology Isis had this public beheadings you know these terrible pictures that reached us from raaka they had a school system where they were looking at the children and the bright ones would may be trained to become leaders later on and the not

So smart ones would be trained to become suicide bombers in the end they used raaka for their own propaganda especially to the outside world portraying this as the paradise on Earth calling for Muslims all over the world their Muslims brothers and sisters to join the caliphate to build something

New that was how Isis managed to lure tens of thousands of foreign Fighters our driver tells us that rqa is still unsafe and urges us to leave what’s become of the terrorist militia Fighters after they were defeated thousands of them were imprisoned in prisons like Alena to our surprise we granted permission to film inside the Prison the jail is a breeding ground for Isis explains Commander Jamal he also fought the terror terrorists and is uneasy about our visit the security situation is too tense he says and we sense it too my hands are shaking as I hold the camera the Roar of generators is everywhere and the stench

Is unbearable Jamal shows us around suddenly he tells me to stop filming a door opens and I see hundreds of Isis prisoners crowded together many of them are injured some are missing limbs the space they’re held in is cramped beyond belief I turn my camera back on as we

Enter the infirmary there’s just one stretcher here these Isis prisoners are doctors they treat thousands of inmates in return they have a little more space and are allowed to live together in this room we set up these prisons under difficult conditions we weren’t prepared for what happened after the victory

Against is in the Battle of baguz we suddenly had to take in more than 5,000 is Fighters the Isis prisoners cook their own food Jamal warns us quietly not to get too close to them he fears they might attack us with boiling cooking oil we’re taken to the main wing of the prison where the inmates exercise time in the yard is about to

Begin Commander Jamal allows us to go up to the Watchtower to film gulan however is told to stay out of sight she’s not wearing a headscarf and Jamal is worried this will provoke the prisoners most of foreign jihadists who came to Syria via turkey to join Isis

How did you actually make the way to Syria simple you just make your flight to Turkey there’s someone waiting for you he will take you and then he will take you over the border so it was something very easy even the the gods they were welcoming you they have

They’re not stopping you they’re not controlling that was something which I think was politically in the benefits of turkey most of these prisoners have been here or in other prisons in the region for years no one knows what awaits them amid this uncertainty young men in particular continue to Radicalize a new generation of Isis is emerging here these people have been imprisoned for a long time they call themselves ashal Al caliphate the Cubs of the caliphate they were child soldiers between 13 and 18 years old when they came here older prisoners indoctrinate them turn them into committed is Fighters they are

Extremely dangerous I think the prisoners they will have a reaction I don’t know which kind of reaction but it depend from one to the other maybe one one he will he will have a Vengeance maybe one he will he will become more uh more extremist you know

You know maybe some people they will get crazy they will lose their minds in the prison you know so it will create many bad results you understand as more they extend our uh presence in the SDF prisons this will make more uh problems our goal is to return the

Prisoners to their home countries but as long as they are here we have to make sure the prisons are secure the inmates often dig Tong to try and Escape attempted escapes are Common so far we’ve always managed to thwart them we always discovered the tunnels in time you who are behind bars the most important task of your brothers is to free we will never forget you how could we liberating you is our duty and the command of The we don’t know how much longer we can secure the prisons we have hired more guards but that is not enough we need a safer place a better monitoring system until their home countries take them back Europeans State use the legal limbo in the RO to park their own jihadist

There you know and uh some states especially my state for example Austria uh are not willing to take the responsibility for their citizens and they hope that if they Park them there they will somehow disappear in light of the conditions here some human rights organizations have referred to these prisons as a new

Guantanamo do you think rajava will become the next Guantanamo no absolutely not the prisons were set up while fighting was ongoing we set them up in former school buildings we know that these fighter home countries don’t want them back but that means these countries have to help us create an international

Tribunal or they have to pay the cost to hold the is Fighters here we have about 12,000 Isis prisoners here rojava’s economy can’t cope with that on its own our visit to the prison ends abruptly Jamal thinks it’s too quiet and something must be about to happen it

Feels like the Cal before the storm we have to live leave we want to learn more about the fight against Isis in rajava what tracus has it left here we head to kobani near the Turkish Syrian border it was here that Isis was pushed back for the first

Time the beginning of its downfall in September 2014 the jihadists launched a massive attack on the city but Kurdish Fighters put up Fierce resistance ISM Hassan organized the defense of the city Isis Fighters attacked us from three sides we wanted to push them into the city its narrow streets because

That’s where we have the best chance with the modest weapons we had we learn that people here are especially proud of the young women who fought against Isis in rajava the ypj are the women’s protection units so they are the female brigades within the ypg they had a very important role when

It came to the Battle of kubani because these women are very dedicated they know whenever they are being captured by ISIS Fighters they would be violated they would be raped they would be killed so they were very committed in this fight we meet one of them Fatma lost an arm in in the

Battle today she helped support others wounded in the fighting like many here she still haunted by memories they kept shouting if we catch you we will eat you all the time they were calling us names whether you like it or not you cannot Escape fear in

Battle and that is why you must turn it into courage and face it head on you’re aware that the people who live here depend on you if you give up they will suffer they will be hurt that’s why you have to Fight why was Isis able to become so powerful in the first place and what role did neighboring turkey play in its rise when Isis attack the Kurds to take over kubani turkey was standing by not helping the Kurds because it was kind of in their interest you know for years

Turkey had led islamist fighters from all over the world and jihadist fighters from all over the world using the Turkish Syrian border to come to Syria to join the islamist groups there even Isis so this is what we call the jihadist highway in 2014 then us Vice President Joe Biden commented our allly

In the region were our largest problem in Syria and the Turks president erdogan told me he’s an old friend said you were right we let too many people through I ran the Isis campaign 40,000 foreign fighters jihadis from 110 countries around the world all came into

Syria to fight in that war and they all came through turkey I was in Turkey more than any other country to have them seal their border and they would not do it they said they couldn’t do it but the minute the kurs took parts of the Border it’s totally sealed with a

Wall in September 2014 the US decided to provide military support for the Kurdish fight against Isis it was an alliance against Terror on behalf of all Humanity that’s what made it unique no one ever would have expected the Kurdish people’s defense units and America to join forces

I think we can say we defended the world if Isis had been successful here it would have posed a grave danger to the world and that’s why the world should support us Today in kobani alone more than 1,000 Kurdish Fighters were killed We drive through an area where the fighting continued long after the initial Victory it took 4 years to defeat the terror militias the International Alliance played a crucial Role so the Americans turned to the Syrian Democratic forces and the SDF is made up mainly by ypg Fighters but there were some other minority groups Christian groups uh militias were included into the SDF so they became the main Ally of the Western anti-isis Alliance in October 2017 they succeeded

In defeating Isis in Rucka after four years of brutal occupation under the so-called Isis calipat raqa its capital is liberated the Americans announced they would train a force 30,000 strong to guard the Syrian Turkish border to prevent Isis from returning Turkish president erdogan reacted angrily and threatened military action

Sh America is building a terror Army along our border We Must Destroy it before it’s Created rajava now had to defend itself not only against Isis but also against a threatened Invasion by turkey the Turkish Army bombed towns on the border including arrine the attacks claimed some 1, 500 lives and more than 100,000 people were displaced but the Kurdish majority militias continued to fight in March

2019 with the help of air strikes carried out by International Coalition forces buuz the last Isis stronghold was Captured General nus General muslum commander of the Syrian Democratic forces I’d like to offer a statement on behalf of the government of the United States we congratulate the Syrian people and particularly the Syrian Democratic forces on the destruction of isis’s fraudulent caliphate and for the liberation of isis’s remaining territory in eastern

Syria turkey continued to threaten attacks on rajava and called on the US Army to withdraw at the UN in New York president presented his plan for what he called a peace Corridor in Northern Syria an attempt to control an area that makes up a large part of Rava we must eliminate the pkk ypg terrorist organization in Syria their territories cover a quarter of Syrian territory these are ruled by a group that someone to decriminalize under the name Syrian Democratic forces we are proposing to create a peace Corridor 30 km wide and 480 km

Long and resettle 2 million syrians from Turkey there with the support of the International Community the idea of creating this security Zone alongside the Turkish Syrian border serves a double goal first of all he wants to contain Kurdish autonomy on the Syrian side of the border the second goal is to resettle

Syrian refugees inside Syria because turkey has taken in almost 4 million Syrian refugees it’s a huge burden on the society the idea is if he controls these border areas he can send some million syrians back to these areas which would mean that you have some kind of an ethnic cleansing there because

These areas were inhabitated by Kurdish population tens of thousands of them had to flee from the Turkish interventions before and now he wants to resettle mainly Arab syrians to that area which would definitely not help within the Syrian Society to reconcile and to live together peacefully in October 2019 US troops

Made a surprise withdrawal from rajava on then president Trump’s orders the move left people in the region desperate suddenly they just left people said we Kurds have been betrayed again it should not have happened America had the power to assert itself against turkey for the sake of all the victims

21,000 soldiers of the Syrian Democratic forces and not one American Soldier was injured that’s the state we were in immediately after the withdrawal of US troops turkey launched its third invasion of rajava dubbed operation peace Spring by erdogan according to the UN more than 100,000 people were displaced

Today many of them still live in refugee camps inside their own country the wasani camp is home to some 16,000 internally displaced people the Turks attacked us we were homeless and flaty with our Children our children are growing up in a Wilderness we live like dogs here There are eight of these refugee camps in the region the UN hasn’t yet supplied any Aid to the camps the Syrian regime is blocking it the UN can only help through the Syrian government which prevents aid from reaching these refugee camps These people are not even recognized as refugees they’re getting no help whatsoever even though they have lost everything it is an atrocity the full extent of the problems rajava is facing is becoming clear to us but how exactly can the West contribute to Greater security and stability in the

Region back in kamishi we ask Abdul Kim Omar we the autonomous Administration have called on the Western Alliance to establish an international tribunal it should be here in northeastern Syria because Isis terrorists committed their crimes against the people of this region but unfortunately everyone has abandoned us and we’ve been left to deal with the

Problem alone it’s a ticking Time Bomb a luming catastrophe a time bomb he says that’s also ticking in the camps where the wives children widows and Orphans of Isis Fighters live in alal there are well over 50,000 of them all of whom are unable to Leave it couldn’t be any worse the alh camp is the most dangerous camp in the world a breeding ground for a new generation of terrorists we have no control over the camp it’s controlled by ISIS we make our way to Al Hall we’ve been given permission to film but when

We arrive the guards tell us it’s too dangerous before they can let us into the camp they have to find an armed escort for us and that will take a while in the meantime we’re allowed to drive through the camp in the car in a matter of minutes little boys

Gather around the car calling us names swearing at us and throwing stones this is a brutal place to grow up it’s steeped in the violent ideology of Isis a Kurdish guard who does not want to be filmed tells us that the young children in the camp make gestures at

Her as if they’ll slit her throat they shout at her that she’s an Infidel and that they will avenge the death of their parents the children begin to chant an is Battle Hymn they seeing that one day they themselves will also become jihadists and sacrifice their lives for the

Prophet we have to leave alh for now we drive to Camp Ro 3 hours away we’re allowed to film here and some residents have agreed to talk to us the camp is divided in two one is occupied by extremist women some of whom have carried out attacks themselves the

Other houses families who don’t belong to Isis or have renounced its ideology I made a big mistake I was wrong to come to Syria our countries should take us back so that we can start a new Life this is wead she tells us that she took off her veil on International women’s day women who take off the nikab are threatened with being burned alive wead has four young children by two jihadist fathers this Camp is no place for children there’s no education this is a violent environment and is

Nothing for the children no um activities so children if you leave the children like here then you can say this will be the next generation of Isis Fighters many children are smuggled out of the camp and given to Isis this is how they recruit child soldiers it’s hard but I tried to

Protect my son from The Radical extremist ideology in The we’re told that these women are only a small minority among thousands of captured is women they see themselves as victims of Isis and deny having been involved in the crimes against Syrian and Iraqi women and children women loyal to Isis on the other hand often hide children whose

Mothers have died simply to prent vent them from being placed in the care of people they see as infidels we drive to one of the orphanages where children who could be taken out of the camp live we often don’t even know the nationality of the children we provide

Them with a good upbringing and education we can do that but worry about their future what will become of them they’re all right here thank God you take care of the children yes I love them as their mother would and more they shouldn’t feel that they’re not

Loved we make our way back to alh an armed es School is waiting for us and we’re allowed to enter the camp with the Camera alh is a known home to a large number of Hardcore Isis supporters it’s reputed to be a Haven for Radicals and Fanatics this is the most dangerous part of our trip El Hall has turned into a city and it has has turned into a small caliphate

Because it consists of three parts an Iraqi Syrian and international part with the most radical Isis members being the Internationals now we are inside the alall camp we’re about to arrive at the market our armed escort fad takes us to the part of the camp where the foreign

Women and their children live these women have formed a Hardline group we only want the law of God the Sharia to apply all the children here are the new soldiers of Isis you said that a dead baby was found this morning every day something like this happens here the baby was in a plastic bag in the trash many bad things happen here a woman was killed they threw her into the sewage system so many atrocities happen here come on let’s go to the

Market leave the car isn’t that dangerous no that’s why I’m here This is the camps Market it’s organized by the residents themselves you can try talking to them but they won’t answer have they been forbidden to talk to us yes it is very difficult to control and to contain the living conditions are unbearable it’s very dangerous to leave foreign Isis members in that camp

Especially children because elh will turn into a ticking Time Bomb for a further and future terrorist organization that could reemerge from El hor do you see the figures in Buras some of them are armed men they might suddenly come at you shoot and run away this is what

Happens isn’t it too dangerous for us yes it’s getting dangerous the market is getting too crowded it’s no longer safe here we know that the groups in Al hle are well organized and are also receiving orders from outside they have contact with the outside and communicate by cell

Phone they get orders to attack and kill people every day people are killed there where the foreign women live a new generation of terrorists is being raised we believe that they’ll be much more dangerous than Isis itself from an early age they’ve been fed radical extremist ideas they’re raised on a hunger for

Revenge the children are being groomed to become new Fighters the people held in the camps and prisons are making long-term plans and they don’t hide that fact they say we’re coming back and we’ll be even stronger This video shares the message that the Islamic State will live on it shows the flag of the caliphate flying in the Camp unfortunately in all of this turkey is helping Isis the most there are many illegal cells that help people escape from the camps oh every day there are attempts to escape from the camps those who succeed flee to Turkey often they’re smuggled out with turkey’s Help in response turkey says it only helps people who need to be rescued leave alh its domestic intelligence service only comes to the rescue of foreigners who want to be returned to their home countries our impression of alal is that it’s both a refugee and an internment camp a threatening atmosphere was

Palpable in the camp rajava feels highly volatile the legacy of Isis here in the region in January 2022 shortly after our trip many people’s worst fears came True two is suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the Alena prison videos from inside the prison circulated on social media we definitely can say is that this was a very well organized Uprising and and it was an attempt actually to take over the city it was not just an attempt to escape from

Prison while the Syrian Democratic forces fought against this Isis Uprising in Haka turkey continued to use their drones against the Syrian Democratic forces so they even attacked Kurdish units who were driving to Haka to fight Isis there in the end the Kurdish military managed to regain Control they weren’t only targeting the prison they wanted to create chaos in alh and the HOSA and raqqa region Isis referred to the second caliphate they wanted to regain control over the entire region 374 jihadists are reported to have been killed in the fighting and many are believed to have

Escaped Commander Jamal the guard who showed us around the prison is one of the 77 prison staff who were Executed and then we hear that zenab the caregiver from the orphanage was also killed in a Turkish drone strike Turkish aggression is also increasing in kamishi we ourselves experienced an attack as we were leaving after our return on September 20 2022 president Adan again addressed the

UN and again he stated that there’s no difference between the Kurdish military and the terrorist pkk our trip left us convinced that there’s a real danger of an Isis Resurgence and rajava is being left to deal with this threat on its own what if the Kurds can no longer keep

Isis under control the repercussions will likely be felt in Europe too

Video “Why IS remains a threat | DW Documentary” was uploaded on 11/17/2023 by DW Documentary Youtube channel.